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24th May 2019

“England will never have a better chance to win the World Cup” – Felix White interview

Speaking exclusively to JOE, former Maccabees songwriter Felix White discusses England's chances of winning the Cricket World Cup

Reuben Pinder

The world of cricket is hoping for a repeat of 2005 this summer

Fourteen years ago, England’s Ashes victory over Australia inspired a significant change in the country’s mood. Sandwiched between two major football tournaments, and being broadcast on terrestrial TV, it captured the nation’s imagination with the help of some of the world’s best cricketers playing out one of the most enthralling Ashes series of all time.

Local parks were filled with people of all ages playing cricket on whatever space they could find. Kids had blonde streaks in their hair like their new hero Kevin Pietersen.

Speaking exclusively to JOE at the launch of England’s World Cup kit, former Maccabees guitarist and one third of cricket podcast Tailenders, Felix White explains how this summer could have a similar effect on the sport’s popularity.

With a World Cup and an Ashes series both being held this summer in England – whose national team currently boast arguably their best squad ever – White believes “there will never be a better opportunity to find out” how big cricket can become in this country.

“The England side at the moment is the best one that’s ever existed and they play genuinely wildly entertaining cricket,” he said. 

“They smash the ball everywhere and they’re really loveable. In terms of cricket in general, it occasionally falls into a trap… it doesn’t need to be ‘cool’. It’s just a great game. It’s about making it reach people and not pretending it’s something it isn’t.” 

After the Ashes in 2005, the broadcasting rights to international cricket were acquired by Sky Sports, which some argue had an extremely counter-productive effect on the sport’s popularity. The move was a great shame, says White, but evolving TV habits mean he’s not sure that bringing it back to Free to Air TV would be the solution.

“I don’t know if people absorb television in the same way they did ten years ago so I don’t know if it’s as big a deal. There definitely was a turning point after the 2005 Ashes when there was a real opportunity to make it the national sport and it really captured country’s imagination at that time.

“Then it got taken off terrestrial TV which I think personally was a massive shame. In the position we’re in now I think the most important thing is making it available for kids to actually play because when it’s not in the nation’s consciousness.”

White is optimistic that England can go all the way this summer, though somewhat sceptical given the country’s history falling at the final hurdle. With big hitters at the top of the order and variety in the bowling attack, “England will never have a better chance to win a world cup than now because they are literally a team of heroes”.

At a time when the UK has never been more divided, with the rapid escalation of far-right hate crimes, White says the diversity of England’s squad will be an added bonus too.

“Having Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Jofra Archer means there’s really lovely representation of people across England as well.”